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FINANCIAL HARDSHIP POLICY

Financial Hardship Policy

Connected Australia

Financial Hardship Policy

Financial hardship involves a situation where an individual is unable to meet their financial obligations to us for reasons such as illness, unemployment or another reasonable cause. However, they are reasonably expected to be able to do so with an adjustment to their payment and service agreements. Please contact us if you wish to claim financial hardship and adjust your payment and service arrangements. There are no fees to avail of this service, and each circumstance will be assessed on a case to case basis.

OUR FINANCIAL HARDSHIP POLICY

The objective of this policy is to secure payment of customers who are experiencing financial hardship over time while maintaining ongoing access for them to some telecommunications services.

DEFINITION

As stated above, Financial hardship refers to a situation where a person is unable, reasonably, to settle their financial obligations to us under their contract. They are expected to meet the payment and or service arrangements when they are changed. It can take place over a limited timeframe or be long-term. It can result from many factors including:

loss of employment of that person or a family member

family breakdown

illness, including physical incapacity, hospitalisation, or mental illness, either for that person or a family member

Death in the family

unexpected or increased family commitments, due to circumstances such as the above.

If you believe you can fulfil your financial and contractual obligations by changing your payment/service arrangement, then you may claim financial hardship. If you are experiencing financial problems from time to time, you are not qualified to have assistance under this policy. See our exclusions below.

The purpose of our policy to be flexible enough to accommodate the circumstances of each client. If you wish to declare financial hardship and change your payment/service arrangements, please reach us.

INFORMATION THAT IS AVAILABLE

A verbal or written summary of this policy may be provided if:

you request for it,

you express to us that you are in financial hardship, and

we examine that you may be eligible for the financial hardship policy.

All our reminder notifications include information about this policy.

TRAINING

The staff are fully trained and responsible for discussing financial hardship payment arrangements with you.

ASSESSMENT AND EVIDENCE OF FINANCIAL HARDSHIP

On request, we’ll evaluate your eligibility for assistance under our financial hardship policy. As part of this, we’ll take into account your individual circumstances. In the context of that assessment, we may request supporting documentation from you.

We’ll only ask for this if:

it looks like that the financial arrangements will need to be long term

We take into account if the amount is large or significant

You have not been our customer for very long

we are concerned that there is fraud involved

WE CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING TO BE EVIDENCE OF FINANCIAL HARDSHIP:

Proof of an unforeseen change in your situation

In some cases, proof that you have met with and accompanied by an acknowledged financial counsellor

documentation, such as a statutory declaration from a person familiar with your situation (family doctor, priest, bank officer, etc.in terms of). This information should meet the criteria of the privacy regarding how it has been collected and is used and retained.

ASSISTANCE FROM FINANCIAL COUNSELLORS

We may ask you to seek assistance from a financial counsellor to discuss your financial situation, where we suppose you are experiencing genuine and long-term financial hardship. We think some customers may benefit from the experience of a financial adviser. The reasons why we may require that you seek their advice, and assistance can include:

It is apparent that your financial situation is genuine, severe and permanent and you need expert financial advice and counselling.

It is evident that you are paying us at the expense of other bills and that you may need financial advice and guidance to ensure your bills are paid in the correct order of priority for you to maintain a reasonable standard of living. For example, it may be suitable for you to work with the financial counsellor to determine the priority of the bills that need to be paid; and

We cannot agree on a reasonable payment arrangement (i.e., the suggested payments and the length of time to meet your financial obligations) without a financial counsellor’s assistance and advice.

Note: W will only ask you to seek the advice of a financial counsellor in all the circumstances where the conditions detailed above are involved.

ESTABLISHMENT OF FINANCIAL HARDSHIP

Once it has been established that you meet our financial hardship criteria, we’ll agree a suitable arrangement between you, your financial counsellor (if you have one) and our Credit team. You will be asked to keep to this payment method.

CONDITIONS

- make sure that you are a residential customer of Connected Australia

-that the financial hardship process will be reasonable to both parties

-we want to maintain our relationship with you

-identify appropriate products or services for you that will enable you to retain a level of access and still manage your future communications spending.

-we’ll take into account your individual circumstances

The fundamental principle of any agreed financial arrangement is that the repayment should be enough to cover your expected future use of the service, as well as continuing to reduce your debt.

YOUR OBLIGATIONS

You shall:

recognize the debt and your obligation to repay it

provide us with enough information for both parties to decide what constitutes a reasonable payment arrangement

accept responsibility for reducing your phone usage to a level that you can pay, and you are prepared to take up relevant call barring options to achieve this

accept the restricted level of access that we negotiate with you

make repayments to us as agreed under the financial hardship arrangement.

tell us immediately if you experience any further financial difficulty, and we’ll review your situation.

OUR RESPONSIBILITIES

We will:

ensure that none of your outstanding debt is in dispute

confirm that you are the person who is legally liable to pay the debt

not take credit management action while financial hardship arrangements are being discussed

ensure access is limited as agreed and that the limitations are explained if limiting access to services forms part of our agreement with you

the arrangements will be ones that you can meet

look at waiving our disconnection and late payment fees

monitor your compliance with the financial hardship arrangement

not change the terms of the arrangement if you are meeting those terms

clearly explain the terms of the payment arrangement to you

ask you to contact us if your situation changes during the term of the arrangement.

be willing and able to review the terms of the financial hardship arrangement if you tell us that your circumstances have changed

make sure you are fully informed of your rights and obligations under the arrangement We won’t undertake credit management action including a listing of your debt with an external credit reporting agency while a financial hardship arrangement is being actively discussed with us or during the financial hardship arrangement unless:

(a) you breach the terms of the arrangement

(b) credit management action appears to be reasonable in the circumstances or

(c) you agree if you don’t stick to the conditions of the agreement and don’t notify us to re-negotiate, we’ll take reasonable steps to contact you or your financial counsellor (if applicable) before taking further credit management action

If we can’t make contact, we’ll resume regular credit management action, including restriction or suspension of the service or termination of the contract. This action will be in agreement with our credit management policies and the credit management code

only our recoveries department or a credit manager can measure financial hardship matters.

Payment arrangements for the settlement of all due balances must be made within a timeframe of 12 months

if your payment request, after negotiation, remains at greater than 12 months, then you may be referred to an external credit reporting agency and your “statement of means” forwarded to the relevant agent

Documentation supporting your position must be on the official letterhead of the organisation assisting you with your claim.

EXCLUSIONS

Financial hardship is not applicable to:

Customers who wish to negotiate time to settle their bill within a short period, usually three months

People who are bankrupt.